Wednesday, 17 September 2014

clever Dick, clever Mat, clever Ah Beng, clever Muthu ???

                                Your trouser cuffs are dirty,
                      And your shoes are laced up wrong,
                     You'd better take off your homburg,
                      'Cos your overcoat is too long.
                                           Procol Harum

I know most bloggers ignore all or some comments but I feel I owe a response to those who bother to write.

However, old habits die hard.  This retired, but not retiring teacher cannot resist picking at shoddy and awkwardly pompous comments that turn up on this blog.  I do refrain from doing a thorough 'marking' because I think it is wonderful enough that we non-westerners can write in a language that is not our mother tongue - typical grammatical errors can be expected, for instance using the word 'critique' as a verb when it is actually a noun.

But I do hold the line on careless and sloppy use of words and on crooked thinking and arguments.

Take this comment from my posting  on " A Parting Shot " .

1.  What is meant by "passive-aggressive"?  Technically, it denotes a "type of behaviour or personality characterised by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confirmation".

The poem referred to in "A Parting Shot" is a very direct statement; not of resistance against those who make demands (on the Malays) , but on the Malays themselves, to wake up and pull up their socks, so to speak.  The tone is scathing and contemptuous, and there's no mincing of words or beating about the bush.

2.  "Passive-aggressive" also refers to "a defense mechanism that allows people who aren't comfortable being openly aggressive to get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others.  They want their way but they also want everyone to still like them".

I certainly agree with the above definition as a characterisation of the Malays and their leadership in the Peninsula, from the late 1940s to the 1950s prior to Independence - and especially today!  But it was NOT a defence mechanism at all - call it the Malay attitude of tolerance, of 'give and take', of 'tidak apa', of being stupidly lackadaisical about their tomorrows, but above all, let's face it - the Malays had no choice at all.  They had 'to please others' - simply because the economy was not in their hands then (and still isn't today), and  the demographic composition was stacked against them -they were almost a minority in their homeland (indeed, for a time, if we include the Straits Settlements, they were.)

BUT, the poet  was not succumbing to being passive-aggressive' - he was not 'crying in his beer'  (or teh tarik) , he was not seeking to be 'liked', he was just angry and frustrated with his fellow Malays.

Flammenwerfer (FW) does not approve of this poem and his 'defense mechanism' is simply to write it off as 'crap'.  Well,exactly which "Crap" is  FW referring to?  "Crap" as in :

(a) faeces?- well, we ALL produce that! ....
(b) work of extremely poor quality ......
(c) talk at length in a foolish and boring way ?

As for (b) and (c) -  ah ha, some of us do it much better than others!

I reckon the Anon poet has managed to put across many more serious issues than FW gives him credit for

3. FW has to be more specific about his second criticism.  In the first sentence he referred to 'Malay labourers', then  to follow up his argument he rants about how  "locals won't work for Indon wages" or even when offered higher wages.  Don't locals include Chinese and Indians as well?  Make up your mind!  Or does he think that being unskilled coolie labourers is the domain of the Malays only?

And by the way have you ever heard of any Malaysian developer, contractor, or any other tycoons who are willing to pay more to local workers? If they do, pigs will fly!  Even in Singapore (as FW is keen to quote Singapore as comparison) - the Singaporeans do not want to see themselves relegated to a coolie status just to keep body and soul and HDB flat together.

If the powers that be really want to get locals to do such manual labour.  motivate them by providing at least a minimum wage, to assist them with training and upgrading skills or apprenticeship and provide schemes for topping-up wages.  Can you envisage Malaysian taukehs and tycoons falling over themselves to make such a contribution?

4. As to the economy and the Chinese, the retort 'tell me something new'  smacks of  a typical  dismissive smugness of the social media-speak generation, especially when it comes to discussing any issues to do with  'race'.  Does this throwaway statement  mean that FW endorses and supports this unhealthy status quo?   Or is he lost for words?

Of course the domination of the Chinese in the Malaysian economy is nothing 'new'!  But does that mean that our anonymous poet cannot provoke his kinsmen to get off their bums and challenge this unsatisfactory supremacy - as the native Africans did in Apartheid South Africa or as American Blacks achieved in the 60s and 70s or as even the indigenous communities of New Zealand and Australia are doing in their homeland?

But this is not just a struggle of the natives of the ex-colonies. Today, developed, wealthy, white nations like UK are worried and trying their darnedest to avoid inflicting on themselves what they perpetrated in countries like Malaya, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand for instance.

Check this :

In an article in the Daily Mail (May 14, 2013) Tim Shipman noted what Lord Mandelson a former Cabinet Minister said in 2009:  " Migrants are filling gaps in our labour market that Britons are not available to fill or unwilling to fill.  (Doesn't that sound familiar - remember the British gripe about 'lazy' Malays?) There has not been an adverse effect on employment of British nationals."

Mandelson then did a 180 degree turn.   In May 2013 he admitted: "I think we have to realise that the entry of migrants to the labour market is hard for people who are finding it very difficult to get jobs, or to keep jobs."

In other words, Britons are now fearful of and hostile to the growing number of 'foreigners' and immigrants  in their midst.  Between 1997 and 2010, migration to Britain totalled  2.2 million.  Even sane voices like the former Archbishop of Canterbury were warning about this undesirable situation.


It was precisely this "engineered mass immigration" that the British imposed on the Malay Peninsula and the outer islands as of the early part of the 20th century.  This was the result.

We have to live with this multi-cultural (?), divisive (?)  'legacy' of imperial Britain.  And I reckon the natives and the immigrants are trying to do the best they can in a very difficult cultural and economic brew.

Check this:  

The scenario presented in the above graph is giving Australians (especially those of European descent) the jitters. According to research by the Sydney Daily Telegraph (May 2012), more than half of Australians want an end to further immigration.  I do wonder whether this included  many 'Asian Australians'!  After all, here in Leicester - just like the native Brits - the Asian Brits (mainly from South Asia) are quite hostile to more immigration from Sudan, Iraq, Somalia and lately East Europeans into Britain!     Only yesterday, our Gujerati neighbour bemoaned the behaviour of the foreigners on our street - and he meant the East Europeans!

Although official voices in Australia claim that "people are concerned that the present rate of population growth is not sustainable and is going to make Australia a poorer place to live"  ( Professor Bob Birrell, Monash University), it is obvious that their main concern is not simply based on numbers but the racial composition of Australia as well.

In 1947, just 0.3% of the Australian population were born in Asia; in 1981 it was 2.5% and by 2010 it had grown to just 9%.   And Australians are still worried!

So FW, what's new in Malaysia?  What's new in Great Britain?  What's new in Australia?  What's the big deal?

Remember the White Australia Policy?  Remember how Malaysia in the 1970s and 1980s was pilloried for failing to respond to the plight of  refugees - The Boat People, who by the way were mainly Vietnamese of Chinese descent - from Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War?  They even made a movie about the dastardly, heartless  Malaysian Government pushing out the Boat People. Well, nearly 50 years later, Australia is having to deal with their "Boat People" - mainly refugees from the war in Afghanistan. These victims of a war wreaked by Judaeo-Christian nations are being detained and  'processed' on islands like Nauru, which is just 21 square kilometres in size and made up almost entirely of solid phosphate.

Nauru  (Torsten Blackwood: AFP)

5.  As to the professional class who are mainly Indians, FW takes the same nonchalant, liberal and trendy stand. He must be thinking, 'for heaven's sake, whats the fuss about?'  It's happening "even in Singapore"!

FW should read more and pontificate less.  Read how born-and-bred Singaporeans are chomping at the bit about being 'swamped' by foreigners from China, India, Malaysia and the Philippines.  This was what the Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong said in July 2013:

" In fact, if I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore and set up their base here, my Gini coefficient will get worse but I think Singaporeans will be better off, because they will bring in business, bring in opportunities, open new doors and create new jobs, and I think that is the attitude with which we must approach this problem." 

This is slightly different from Lord Mandelson's objective and his forefathers' colonial tactics.  But it reminds me of Australia's and New Zealand's conditions - in the 1970s and later - for Asians seeking to migrate into their hallowed domain.  You must bring with you a dowry, of a certain sum of lolly (Vietnamese refugees brought their gold bars) and a professional qualification to boot.

If  FW is a born-and-bred Singaporean who has nowhere else to migrate to - he would not be too laidback  by "this growing trend."

6. " Warong makan..  (So you want Malays jadi jaga?)"  I'm a bit lost here.  What is FW getting at?  I think no one wants the Malays to be 'jaga'.  In fact, in Malaysia and Singapore, Malays have a hard time trying to shed the image of them being the drivers and gardeners of the taukehs, and the white and brown Tuans.

Just 6 years ago, a Penangite Dato who sees himself as an impresario came to our house to talk about the spouse's illustrated book "Fatimah's Kampung".  He wanted Iain to make about 100 signed copies of a selected set of illustrations, to be exhibited and sold to his avant garde clientele.  Of course my Scottish  spouse adamantly refused the suggestion.  When the spouse moved to the kitchen to make the tea, this Dato spoke to me and asked, " Do you want the money?"   Hand on my heart - those were his very words to me.

You see - in the eyes of this Chinese Dato -  I am a Malay and a Malay can be easily bought.  That was how (some) Malays from the west of Johor, desperate for money to go on the Hajj or for celebrating grand weddings would sell their land to the lowest bidder. But looking at the nature of modern Malays today, indeed they can be easily bought and sold.

As for the Dato's Malay driver, when we suggested that the driver come in and take a seat at the verandah - instead of remaining inside the parked car - we were given a flat 'no' by the Dato.

7.  "There is nothing to be proud of about using Jawi ....... not an original Malay alphabet."  FW is paddling in dangerous waters here.

Of course it's in Arabic - this was after all, before the arrival of the Christian Europeans - the  Malay-Muslim Archipelago.

'Apadah'!! Why then did Tuan Syers write a letter in Jawi to  Kapitan China Yap Ah Loy?


"What is so proud" about using a foreign alphabet - the Roman alphabet?  The Roman alphabet was 'introduced' into Malaya by the colonial powers - to make it easy for all, especially the non-Malays to 'communicate' with the Malays.  The Roman alphabet has its benefits.  But with regards to Jawi, please do not poke your nose into areas which you are decidedly biased and ignorant of.  What would be your take if the Chinese and Indian alphabet were romanized as well?

As FW is so dismissive of Jawi, perhaps he/she should be aware of his/her linguistic style and ability. Two languages, Malay and English, have been mongrelized in this slick little piece.  The Anon poet that he pooh-poohs at least has the dignity and ability to express his concerns in his language.

8.  Now we come to FW's piece de resistance.  Am I supposed to be honoured because FW  "look forward to reading it (my blog) for its evocative nostalgia of days when we were less racially conscious."?   He/she has pressed all the right buttons that the so-called liberals in Malaysia are so fond of - words like 'less racially conscious',  'evocative nostalgia' -  of the way we were.  Such sentiments are found in the playground of the well-heeled urbanites, the sophisticated, English-speaking/writing champagne socialists and 'human rights' activists lounging in their Bangsar and Georgetown salons.

Spare me the condescension !

For the information of FW and others like him/her, AsH is not a coffee table site dedicated to   reminiscences and pretty pictures of 'the way we were'.  If that has not registered with the likes of FW then he/she should read and learn from a comment made by a 14 year old Nasir Roslan :

Hi ... my paternal grandpa is an orang laut/orang pulau too ...  the original inhabitants of S'pore.

Here is one young soul who understands and relates to what I am doing in my blog.  He does not look only for "evocative nostalgia" - he is discovering himself and his heritage.  Nasir's comment makes it all worthwhile.

 Read :

I must admit that this riposte is like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer.  But there are so many out there in the ether like this Api Pelontar : that's the translation into Malay of  Flammenwerfer.   So I might as well demolish as many flies as I can with this posting.

Finally, I hope this sentence is not "out of place" for Api Pelontar.  I reckon you are a Malaysian and as I cannot tell what you are because "the blogger profile cannot be displayed"   I shall end with this :  Podah! Mai chuay si, lah! Pergi berambus!

ps.  A 'clever Dick'  is someone who has a high opinion of  his/her ability or knowledge.



Anonymous said...

1. Sorry to have offended you. No condescension was ever meant about what I like about your blog.

2. My comment was strictly about the poem. It was my reaction after reading it. It's hardly Crispin's Day in the exhortation stakes.

3. I got nowhere to podah to. I am a Malay and married a Malay. No merrie olde England to run to and be wistful about.

4. Wishing you the best of health. Other seventy year olds I go listen to now:-


anak si-hamid said...

To Flammenwerfer,

Thank you for the gracious apology.

".. it's hardly Crispin's Day in the exhortation stakes" ?? I had to check on that. What you mean to refer to is Henry V's speech/exhortation to his troops on St Crispin's Day (October 25) at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) against the French, when his troops were outnumbered by three to one.

Oh come on, Flammenwerfer, we're talking about a Malay poem, for goodness sake!!

And when a Malay is brave enough to succinctly criticise his kinsmen and express his frustrations with them within his cultural context, it should be taken seriously.

During my schooldays, many many moons ago, we used 'podah' quite frequently when we want someone to 'get lost', 'to go fly a kite' or to 'buzz off', there's no implication of running off to somewhere foreign.

If you are familiar with this Blog, you will be hard put to find paeans of wistfulness for 'merrie old England'. I leave that to the WOGs in my "Tanah Air".

Fortunately (or unfortunately, as some might think), I found my 'jodoh' in a Briton. 'Wife of Buchanan' I may be, but I am first and foremost 'Anak si Hamid' - which I chose as the name for my Blog.

Thank you for the good wishes - may you too enjoy an invigorating and fulfilling life - up to your 70s and more.

Anonymous said...

' I am a Malay and married a Malay.'
What has this got to do with the whole thing ?
.....and why 'merrie olde England'.....why not India, China, Singapore, Thailand or just 'anywhere'

Too bad. I was kind of hoping to hear some answers to Anaksihamid's long posting .'re right....its always under anonymity that you get most comments.

So should I sign off as 'mustapha' or as 'entlassen' or 'anzünden' or 'schießen' or 'heizen'

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you mustapha and good for you, for using the name your father gave you.

I do agree with you about how 'anonymity' gives people a lot of courage, especially 'Dutch courage'. It's like 'lontar api, sembunyikkan tangan" eh?

I reckon that 'clever mat Heinreich' doesn't know whether to go 'ausgang' or 'ausfart' in his reply, so he goes all yellow.

I do get quite a number of such reactions when 'visitors' to AsH get a dose of their own medicine.

Anonymous said...

"We have to live with this multi-cultural (?), divisive (?) 'legacy' of imperial Britain. And I reckon the natives and the immigrants are trying to do the best they can in a very difficult cultural and economic brew."

Now that is ironic, seeing it coming from a person who has lived many years in the UK on a permanent resident visa.

The Roman alphabet used in Bahasa Melayu today is a foreign system. So is Jawi, imported and influenced from the Middle East. And so was the Old Malay script before, imported and influenced from Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in South Asia.

Even the word "Bahasa" itself is Sanskrit, from the Indian subcontinent.

The poem should end:

"Dan bahasamu asalnya India, malah 'bahasa' juga asalnya India..."

- J

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you 'J',

What's so ironic about the sentence you selected? My childhood and education was spent entirely in Singapore and Malaysia. I taught in Malay medium and English medium schools in Singapore from 1967 to 1978. To escape the 'suffocation' in Singapore, I taught in Brunei for 6 years and later for 2 years in USM.

I would suggest you mind your step.
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

Like some other commentators in AsH, you seem to have a bee in your bonnet about a Malay woman who is married to a white British National.

Just to dispel future suspicions and innuendos about how I got to be here in 'merrie olde England' - we did not meet via a 'mail-order bride' network, or in a bar or on the beach. It was all very above board and proper and down right boring! The spouse was then a lecturer in Leicester University and I was a lecturer in a Teachers' Training College in Brunei (also an ex-Singaporean Graduate Teacher). And he is just 2 years older than me!

If my 'jodoh' was with an Indian or Chinese national, I would never give up my Singapore/Malaysian Passport either. I would just opt for a PR. "Hujan emas negri orang, hujan batu negri sendiri" - and that is a bona fide Malay saying. Furthermore despite where I am in my spouse's country I still prefer 'belacan' to 'mayonnaise' - both as an attitude and a culinary choice.

The Anon poet and I were referring to the script Jawi, not the Malay language per se. Like many other languages, Malay is a hybrid language You might be interested to know that certain key words like 'tua', 'mati', 'ikan' are the same in Malay and Maori.

Of course many Malay words are of Sanskrit origin. You would expect that when Southeast Asia has a history (pre-European) of invasions and empires from Hindu India. Look at the proliferation of Malay words derived from the English the Dutch and the Portuguese after over 6 centuries of occupation!

Finally , if you feel so strongly about your claims, write your own poem, don't latch on to some one else's work.

Hajah Ros said...


I enjoy reading your write-ups, which are informative, stimulating, systematic, well thought out. Researching and writing on some historic buildings in Malaysia, I found some valuable information from a number of your postings. Just retired from public service I am currently indulging in writing, a passion since my school days. I like the way you present your articles. Thank you for the wonderful postings.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Hajah Ros.

As an ex-teacher I'm so heartened when I get responses from my readers who say they learn a thing or two from AsH.

Your interest in old buildings sounds fascinating. I don't know where you are based. But I have wandered around Pudu Road (KL) and discovered some interesting old shophouses tucked in between the high rise modern mega-buildings. They won't be there for much longer and it will be such a shame if their history is turned into rubble.

Years ago, during our 'jalan-jalan' in the Semenanung, we noted more of such 'heritage' shophouses in Batu Pahat, Muar and Kuala Kangsar. But by now, I am quite certain they've been obliterated by modernisation.

As you are just retired, that means you're still young enough to scout around our country for such buildings and roads and to photograph and record them.

Good luck Hajah Ros and keep on wondering and wandering and writing.